KPF to Beer Belly Critics: Big is Beautiful, Functional

Gene Kohn, chairman of Kohn Pedersen Fox, responded to some of the heavy criticisms that have been leveled at his firm’s design for JPMorgan Chase’s new LEED Platinum headquarters at 5 World Trade Center (dubbed the Beer Belly Building by the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo) last month by conceding that “[t]he size of the [...]

Gene Kohn, chairman of Kohn Pedersen Fox, responded to some of the heavy criticisms that have been leveled at his firm’s design for JPMorgan Chase’s new LEED Platinum headquarters at 5 World Trade Center (dubbed the Beer Belly Building by the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo) last month by conceding that “[t]he size of the cantilever is one of those things still being studied.” However, he emphasized that the final design will still include a “cantilever of some dimension” for JPMorgan’s trading floors given the parameters for the site required by the Port Authority (which involve the reconstruction of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church, which was destroyed on September 11, on the northern edge of the project site).

Kohn’s comments came in the aftermath of some derisive criticism from Bloomberg’s James S. Russell, who called the design “a spectacularly amateurish performance by a firm capable of corporate design at the highest level.” Even Governor Spitzer chimed in, observing that 5 WTC would “create an all-weather park where it’s possible to play ball in the rain.” In turn, Kohn pointed out that the cantilever will create what amounts to “a great outdoor room. You’ll still see sky and daylight, like an atrium without walls on three sides . . . [acting as] a great porch facing the [9/11] memorial.” KPF is still considering how the cantilever will appear- whether as a truss or something else- but remains confident that the daylighting studies it has performed demonstrate that the cantilever won’t blanket the church in shadow

I’ll respectfully disagree with the sentiments of Russell and the Governor; I rather like the Beer Belly Building and I think it has a chance to become an extremely important New York City green building. The splash that the initial renderings made- though without question overwhelmingly negative- has drawn attention to what will be designed as an extremely high-performing structure; awareness and design excellence (or intrigue, as the case might be) is still critical to the long-term success of sustainable construction. Whether generated as vitriol (check out the comments to the Architectural Record piece) or through general interest in a controversial piece of architecture that happens to be sustainable, in my opinion the type of press that KPF has received to date is a positive for green building at large. In any event, I’m looking forward to the next round of Beer Belly renderings and encouraged about the direction we’re finally heading in down at Ground Zero.

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  1. Deutsche Bank Demo to Resume; JPMorgan Still Hopes for Platinum Beer Belly Building to Rise at 5 WTC by September | gbNYC Real Estate Group | Commercial Real Estate & Green Buildings in New York City - Sunday, February 22, 2015

    [...] developments are important to note because, as you may recall, KPF’s much-maligned design for the LEED Platinum Beer Belly Building, which will serve as JPMorgan Chase’s new [...]